Crime

A football player raped her. She blames William Jewell College for not preventing it

What is Title IX, and how has it evolved in American schools over the years?

Title IX was signed into law in 1972 and was initially aimed to address gender inequality in sports. Here's how the law got started, and how it expanded over the years.
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Title IX was signed into law in 1972 and was initially aimed to address gender inequality in sports. Here's how the law got started, and how it expanded over the years.

A former student says William Jewell College officials failed to take steps that might have prevented her rape by a member of the school’s football team during homecoming weekend in 2017.

The Kansas City-area woman, identified only as A.P., further claims in a new federal lawsuit that school officials failed to provide her with sufficient mental health care and emotional support after the assault.

That’s one reason she left school and suffers continuing trauma, she said in the suit. Another was the harassment she received after reporting the incident to police.

Men banged on the door of her dorm room that night, the lawsuit said, and screamed “We are going to do you like (the assailant) did you!”

That and the public knowledge of the assault within the small liberal arts college was “too much for the plaintiff to endure, “ the suit said.

In addition to monetary damages, A.P.’s attorneys are asking that the court require William Jewell to bolster its sexual harassment policies and security procedures with help from outside experts who would annually review their implementation.

As of Monday, William Jewell had not been formally served with a copy of the lawsuit, which was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City.

A spokeswoman for the college said federal privacy laws limited her ability to comment on the specifics of this case until William Jewell files its response in court. But she stressed that the safety and security of students is a top priority at the school.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy related to sexual misconduct and have a comprehensive Title IX program in place that guides our response to any incident or allegation,” she said. “As part of our commitment to our students, we also have support services and counseling available, mandatory training for faculty, staff, and students, and a strong partnership with the Liberty Police Department.”

According to the lawsuit, A.P. was assaulted in Browning Hall, one of three co-ed housing units on campus. She lived on the third floor and her assailant lived on the second.

The two began their nights separately and each had been drinking. Their paths crossed late Sept. 30 or early Oct. 1 of 2017 in the lobby of the dorm. The suit alleges that, after some conversation, the male student, identified only by the initials Z.P., followed A.P. and her female roommate up to their room.

The women allowed Z.P. to watch movies with them, but he couldn’t keep his hands to himself, the lawsuit says. A.P. rebuffed him before they arrived at the room after he grabbed her buttocks. Once in the room, she told him that if he was looking for sex he needed to leave. He behaved for awhile.

But later he began to touch her inappropriately and finally sexually assaulted A.P. as she drifted in and out of consciousness on her bed, all the while telling him to stop, the lawsuit says.

The suit claims William Jewell was negligent in several ways. First, by recruiting Z.P. for its football program that previous winter. He allegedly had engaged in an unspecified sexual act at his Texas high school that led to him being transferred to an alternative high school the last half of his senior year.

Had the college done a proper background check, he might never have been at William Jewell, the suit claims. The college further erred by not doing enough to protect female students from Z.P. once he was on campus. Before A.P.’s assault, another woman had claimed he’d harassed her, the suit said.

He had also come to school officials’ attention that September for covertly video-recording two students having consensual sex in a dorm room and then sharing the recording with others, the suit says.

School officials were still investigating the latter incident when A.P. reported her sexual assault to the college. She also filed a report with the Liberty Police Department on Oct. 4, 2017, three days after having herself examined at a hospital in the hours after the assault occurred.

Liberty police said Monday that they conducted an investigation, after which the Clay County prosecutor declined to file charges.

Criminal prosecutions require proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A lesser standard applies to investigations under Title IX, the federal statute under which schools investigate sexual harassment and sexual assault.

William Jewell found that under that standard there was “a preponderance of evidence” to suggest that Z.P. had assaulted A.P. He was expelled from school on Nov. 14, 2017, the suit said.

The lawsuit faults William Jewell for allegedly failing to follow its own “knock and check” security procedures at the dorm where A.P. lived.

According to the suit, Browning Hall’s resident advisers checked each dorm room around midnight to 1 a.m. during the first week of the fall semester “to ensure that no individuals were in the rooms who were not authorized to be within the room.”

But those checks were not occurring during the weeks leading up to A.P.’s assault, the suit said. According to the school’s own records, 10 rapes occurred in William Jewell’s dorms during a three-year period: two in 2015, and four each in 2016 and 2017.

Figures for 2018 are not yet available.

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Mike Hendricks is a member of The Star’s investigations and watchdog reporting team. Send tips and story ideas in confidence by email to mhendricks@kcstar.com, Twitter direct message @kcmikehendricks, or anonymously via Signal encrypted message at 816-234-4738


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